Thursday, March 5, 2009
Understanding the First Amendment
News out of Illinois that a county sheriff has filed a lawsuit against Craigslist for allegedly promoting prostitution by posting personal ads is yet more evidence that people -- yes, even those in positions of authority -- need to learn how to think. For an official sworn to uphold the law to use his office to try to violate people's constitutional rights is outrageous! Yet that's what Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart did Thursday when he had his office sue Craigslist in an effort to force the Web site to stop carrying so-called Erotic Services advertising, according to the Reuters international news service. "Craigslist is the single largest source of prostitution in the nation," Dart said. "Missing children, runaways, abused women and women trafficked in from foreign countries are routinely forced to have sex with strangers because they're being pimped on Craigslist." Of course, Dart has completely missed the point. Prostitution is the largest source of prostitution, not Craigslist. What if the objectionable advertising is moved to another section of the Craigslist site? Is Dart really recommending that the government examine every posting on every Web site on the Internet? That is the logical extension of his position. What's next, a lawsuit to shut the telephone company for allowing its phones to be used in illicit activity? Maybe the next one should try to shut makers of cold remedies because their products can be abused by teens? In a statement e-mailed to CNN, Craigslist said its site was "an extremely unwise choice for those intent on committing crimes, since criminals inevitably leave an electronic trail to themselves that law enforcement officers will follow." Craigslist spokeswoman Susan McTavish said the site assists law enforcement authorities in tracking illegal activity on a daily basis. "Misuse of craigslist to facilitate criminal activity is unacceptable, and we continue to work diligently to prevent it," she said. In November, Craigslist entered into an agreement with 43 states to impose restrictions on its Erotic Services section, including a phone verification system, listing fees and requiring a credit card. But Dart called the fees "dirty money," according to Reuters, and said the move was a "publicity stunt" that had little practical effect.